ZDNet News survey: BT plan gets thumbs down

Today's Internet announcement by BT has been met with anger and suspicion by the majority of people ZDNet News has interviewed. Below are the comments of various members of the Internet community as well as a few readers of the News channel.

Today's Internet announcement by BT has been met with anger and suspicion by the majority of people ZDNet News has interviewed. Below are the comments of various members of the Internet community as well as a few readers of the News channel.

We asked if BT was abusing its monopoly position and if it threatened traditional ISPs.

Ben Knox, managing director, Direct Connection, a London ISP

I'd be very concerned if the facility to bill people's Net use with a phone bill is not made available to other ISPs. If that's not made available then yes there's obviously a monopoly issue here. In the U.S. a similar situation occurred and the telco had to ensure that other ISPs has access to the same billing privileges. I'm also worried that BT, as Mr Daum pointed out, will be able to target heavier users for its own BT Internet service. That is an obvious abuse of monopoly position and an undeniable threat.

David Kennedy, chief executive of the Internet Service Provider's Association (ISPA)

Clearly this looks as though it will be of concern to the rest of the industry and on the surface it does look as though it is unfair to other ISPs.

NOTE: Kennedy will be meeting with other members of ISPA this coming Friday (12 June). ZDNet News will be interviewing him on Monday 15 June.

Pete Gibson - ZDNet News reader

This seems to me rather like the US system whereby users are charged by the hour for Internet connection. I think there is a very good chance that the smaller ISP's will suffer because of this, as the idea of 1p/minute will appeal to first time, and smaller Internet users. At the same time I would imagine that people who use the Internet on a more regular base would probably stay with there current ISPs as 1p/minute mounts up to £'s very quickly.

Certainly someone like myself who uses the Internet for about 2 hours daily, wouldn't find any benefit from being charged by the minute. For me, a blanket access charge would seem to be better value for money.

Jonathan Robinson, MD of London ISP Netbenefit

If no one else can get this sort of opportunity (to charge customers for Net use within a phone bill) it must be an abuse of a monopoly position that will, I'm sure, hurt the other ISPs.

Kevin Piper, head of communications and multimedia marketing at BT

It will never work out more expensive (than other ISP's offerings) unless you go over 1000 minutes a month.

Simon Rockman, editor of What Mobile

This is a clear and blatant breach of BT's monopoly position

Adam Daum, senior analyst at Inteco industry analysts

The caveat here is if someone is coaxed by BT onto this service it can monitor their Internet useage. Once it goes up it can then offer BT Internet which is better suited to heavy use. Can another ISP do that? No.

Nick Gibson, Internet analyst at Durlacher Research

BT will be supplying the most plain or vanilla flavoured Internet service. There isn't any guarantee on the quality of service.

This will certainly suit occasional Internet users. I think it really is a ‘stand back and watch' product for BT.

Martin Turner, UK MD of CompuServe

BT has had a number of attempts to enter the ISP market. This one strikes a little of desperation.

I hope BT is successful because more people on the Internet is good news for us but I struggle to see how BT can make it profitable.

I'm no expert on the BT licensing issue, but from an industry perspective, its important that everybody plays off a level playing field. This does appear to offer them a significant competitive advantage

This is good for BT, not necessarily good for the market.

Alan Stevens, editor, Which Online

Anything that gets more people onto the Internet is a good thing. Its the sort of thing you expect from BT or any large organisation. We will be looking closely into the legal aspects of the deal.

It may not be a good thing for people who use the Internet heavily. Without a monthly charge, users could end up paying more without realising it.

Stephen Hill - ZDNet News reader

I think that it's unlikely this scheme will threaten traditional ISPs at least if they're (BT) charging a penny a minute.

Supposing that you're currently paying £10 a month to a traditional ISP. After you've paid for your subscription, you can surf the Internet as much as you like. The only additional cost is your phone calls.

If you use the new BT Internet service, you pay a minimum of 0.75 p a minute (assuming full discount). That's equivalent to 23 hours a month on-line, or less than an hour each day.

So if you use the Internet more than 23 hours a month, it would be cheaper to do business with a genuine ISP.

Another point to consider, is what BT will offer for that penny a minute. Will it provide free Webspace, or multiple Mail accounts. If it doesn't, it will be unsuitable for many users.

There are also questions of reliability, especially given BT Internet's current reputation.

Overall, the new service is only likely to affect casual surfers. It may hurt AOL or Compuserve but it won't kill off Pipex, Demon, or Global Internet.